A minor dust-up has taken place in SBC blogging life regarding Les Puryear. Les has been blogging recently on the topic of Antinomianism (see here, here, here, and here), at which topic he arrived by way of a discussion of tithing.
Now Les has come under the sort of mean-spirited personal attack that has far too often characterized Southern Baptist blogging since I began reading SBC blogs in 2006. Les's personal correspondence has been re-routed and misused by people with no honor. The use of this material has occurred in a manner calculated to malign Les. Les has now given a full explanation of what REALLY happened. People will challenge the veracity of Les's account, you can count on that.
I have one piece of information to offer as corroboration of what Les has written. Before anyone else published anything about what Les was doing, Les telephoned me to ask me if I would be interested in authoring a scholarly rebuttal of Köstenberger's paper. Les and I don't speak by telephone often (maybe three or four times ever in our lives), so it is easy to recall the details. I declined to write the paper and directed him to other people who might be interested or might already have been working on similar projects (because this kind of subject matter is important to them). The facts of our telephone conversation line up perfectly with Les's explanation of what was happening in his interaction with Dr. Daniel Akin at SEBTS, in which he mentioned the scholarly rebuttal as something that grew out of his subsequent interaction with Dr. Akin.
Oh, and before you come to the conclusion that I'm just sticking up for a blogging-buddy, I would like to point out that my relationship with Les Puryear has been tense—very tense—rather than warm and cuddly. You might consider this post, which I took as an attack piece upon myself personally and which misrepresented my personal beliefs and practices (an action which I'm willing to regard as a mistake on Les's part). Look at the comment thread on that one and see how warm it got. And then, not long afterwards, I prematurely outed Les's 2008 bid for the SBC Presidency and then flatly opposed his election (see here and here).
In my original post outing Les's candidacy, I wondered out loud whether Les was an Antinomian (you'll find that little tidbit if you read the post). I'd say that question has been answered! I apologize, Les, for misunderstanding you. And I think now you see why I was on the lookout for Antinomians in our midst back then. You don't have to look very far.
I imagine that Les Puryear and I will disagree on many more things in the future, but I've always tried to be honest about him and to be honest with him. Les is not a part of my "camp" or anything, but I count him as a brother and I'm hopeful that he is someone independent who has come to see a difference between the way our "camp" operates and the way that others conduct business in the SBC.
Was Les trying to get Köstenberger fired? I don't think that Les wrote that letter to get Köstenberger fired any more than people who tint windows for a living are trying to extinguish the Sun. People who tint windows for a living see the detrimental effect of too much sunshine, but they know that extinguishing the Sun is not within their power. Likewise, I don't think that Les ever seriously thought for a moment that he had the juice to get a professor fired. Goodness gracious! I'm a TRUSTEE at an SBC seminary and I don't think that I have the clout to get walking papers drawn up for a professor just because I disagree with something that a professor writes or says. Anybody who thinks that Les has the ability to get Andreas Köstenberger fired—anybody who thinks that Les thinks that Les has the ability to get Köstenberger fired—is certifiably out of touch with reality.
I think that Les disagreed with Köstenberger's position, that Köstenberger's paper perhaps seemed to Les to be unduly dismissive of Les's own viewpoint, that Les worried that Köstenberger's reasoning might indicate not only a troublesome conclusion on a particular doctrine but also a troublesome understanding of the nature of Old Testament scripture, and that (here's the crux of the matter) Les wanted to lodge a complaint. Does lodging a complaint mean that Les, if he were hiring new professors for some hypothetical seminary of his own, might not have Andreas Köstenberger at the top of his list? I think it probably means at least that. Does it mean that Les thought he could get Köstenberger fired and had determined to do so? No.
Does it mean that Les was questioning whether Köstenberger belonged at SEBTS? Clearly it did, but it also appears just as clearly that Les was perfectly willing to listen to good answers to his questions. I'll bet that you freely opine as to who ought to be pitching for your favorite baseball team or whether the coach of your favorite football team ought to be fired before next season. Maybe you've even called in to an ESPN radio show or written a Letter to the Editor on the topic. Most people, if and when they gain the actual authority to be able to make hiring and firing decisions, are more judicious, circumspect, and cautious when taking irreversible actions than they are when they are expressing an opinion. Les was just expressing an opinion and asking a question (albeit a definitely pregnant one). He disagreed with Köstenberger's opinion and with Köstenberger's rationale for getting there, and Les was expressing his disagreement.
The real irony here is that the side of Southern Baptist life that styles itself in its promotional material as being the champions of free dissent and transparency in the SBC just dropped a piano on a guy for his choice of words in the mere action of his exercising his freedom to dissent and to lodge a complaint with an SBC entity.